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Editorial blog

Downloadable patterns -  Instant upload or total shut down

18 May 2017
By Mark Hayhurst

Jenniffer Taylor asks the question – are downloadable patterns rebooting our interest in sewing or crashing the passion for a handmade make?

I’m going to be honest from the outset, I’m a bit of a technophobe.

Sure, I have a smartphone, a laptop and use social media, not forgetting to check on it a thousand times a day; but unless it’s a format I’m familiar with, I really haven’t a clue.

Personally, I think my husband’s aversion to it has rubbed off on me. He doesn’t even have a camera on his phone, it just texts and calls … oh and it has a handy flash light. Basically, I’m a hands-on kind of girl and being an avid upcycler, it’s about diving in, cutting up and refashioning without the need for a pattern.

So for me, the idea of having to get the computer out to get sewing feels a little weird. However, the idea of downloadable patterns does intrigue me. The internet is a vast and very accessible place. Most people have access to the internet in one format or another, be it a computer, phone or local library and you can find absolutely everything on the internet.

So, for downloadable patterns to claim an ‘instant and faster way’ to get you sewing, with ‘extensive options’ available; surely there is something for everyone?

Ironically, I opened up this question to the crafty community via my social media pages and it seems that the love or loath reasons fall into three categories.


Let’s presume that you have already have a computer and printer at home, so these costs are not included, however, we do have to think about paper and ink.
If we are using downloads for small projects like a bag, then you might be looking at six to ten pages’ minimum for the pattern and instructions if included.

But for a garment like a dress, then this could be around 30 pages plus. Not to mention the reprint if you didn’t get the settings right. Another point mentioned was the environmental costs.

People liked that you only print out the projects that you wanted to make, which very much appealed to me being a #loveyourclothes upcycler. ( ) Being able to get hold of free patterns was a big plus point although the choice might be a little more limited. People really liked that you could access patterns without having to leave the house or visit a haberdashery to find something, especially if you don’t have anything local to you as one lady from the Isle of Man commented on my page.


There was an overwhelming response to time and the wasting of it! Sure, being able to get hold of your favourite pattern without having to wait for Mr Postman was a plus point but having to physically jigsaw puzzle it together with sticky tape before being able to cut out as normal, was a big turn off.While others accepted that it was part of the making process. Being able to look up, print out and get started in theory sounds like you are saving time but a lot of users confessed that they found ways of short cutting the jigsaw process by getting a local large scale printer to print it for them instead, albeit a little costly, they preferred this ‘cheating’ method.

Interestingly no one stated that downloading a pattern was an easy process. While some confessed to giving up at the first hurdle- the system and printer settings and requirements.

Others just wanted to stick to the ‘good old fashioned’ paper patterns instead of all that ‘faffing about’. While a handful of regular download users chose to focus on the end result and will ‘do what it takes’ to get their handmade makes finished. It was also reassuring to hear that I wasn’t the only technophobe out there and that we all felt the pressure to move with the times by pressing that download button.

It really was a thought provoking exercise to ask my sewing community their thoughts on this question. And though we didn’t come to any conclusion, the overwhelming consensus was that people would find a way to make what they wanted to make, and having an option is very important to them.
With technology expanding and evolving more and more each day, it is important to try and keep up with the times and not get left behind, even if we are dragged along, kicking and screaming for most of it. (well, I know I am) So, should we be worried about the possible decline of haberdasheries and traditional paper patterns if the internet is taking over? I honestly don’t think so. You only have to look at recent book or vinyl sales to see that though these items went into a period of decline, they are back with a boom as people cannot resist the tangible aspect.

Scrolling through internet pages doesn’t quite have the same feel good feeling as digging through a display of patterns or caressing reels of fabric for the right weight and style for your dream project. Visiting a haberdashery will always be a place of inspiration and defiantly something that cannot be replaced by a computer screen.

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